The Essential Idaho Reading List

From tales of survival and exploration to comprehensive field guides, this essential Idaho reading list dives deep into the history and natural environment of the state’s incredible rivers and wilderness. If you’re preparing for an Idaho rafting trip, you’ll want to put a few of these books on your must-read list.


The Essential Idaho Reading List

Salmon River Country | By Stephen Stuebner and Mark W. Lisk – Award-winning photographer Lisk showcases the natural diversity of Idaho’s Salmon River throughout the seasons. The accompanying text profiles the ecology and local people of the region.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River: A Comprehensive Guide | By Matt Leidecker – Written by an experienced river guide, this practical guide features detailed maps along with useful information on the history, geology and wildlife of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Moon Idaho | By James P.  Kelly – This informative book from Moon Travel Guides features detailed maps, reference photos, insider travel tips and activity ideas, as well as background on the culture, history and wildlife of Idaho.

Idaho Map | By GTR Mapping – A colorful, topographic map of Idaho at a scale of 1:800,000.


Home Below Hells Canyon | By Grace Jordan – A Depression-era memoir of scraping by on a sheep ranch tucked away in the Snake River Gorge of Idaho.

Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness | By Peter Fromm – The author’s personal story of living the life of a mountain man for seven months, alone in the winter isolation of Idaho’s Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness.

Myths of Idaho Indians | By Deward E. Walker – A short collection of traditional stories from Idaho’s Native American population.


The Essential Idaho Reading List

In Mountain Shadows: A History of Idaho | By Carlos A. Schwantes – A concise, illustrated history of Idaho from the early 19th century to the present, covering Native Americans, economics, geography, industry and territorial disputes.

River of No Return | By Johnny Carrey, Cort Conley – A history and guide to the Salmon River, featuring 150 black-and-white photographs and 10 maps.

River Tales of Idaho | By Darcy Williamson – These 58 stories on the history and cultural importance of Idaho’s rivers and streams range from traditional Native American legends to early accounts by explorers and settlers to modern tales.


Roadside Geology of Idaho | By Donald Hyndman, David D. Alt – A great introduction to basic geomorphology and how the region’s dramatic landscapes were formed, this is the geologic history of Idaho as seen through the car window.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain State | By Peter Alden – A compact field guide to 1,000 commonly encountered plants and animals of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. With 1,500 color photographs, 11 maps, and 16 night-sky charts.

The Essential Idaho Reading List

Sibley Birds West: Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America | By David Sibley – A compact, geographically-specific version of the Sibley Guide, including range maps, glorious illustrations and extremely valuable descriptions of individual birds.


The Journals of Lewis and Clark | By Meriwether Lewis and William Clark – The historic account of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the West and the waterways from St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River—one of the great journeys of discovery.

Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy  | By Kent Nerburn – This New York Times Bestseller is a thoroughly researched and dramatic account of the Nez Perce as they were forced from their homeland during a changing period in the American West.

Angle of Repose | By Wallace Stegner – A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a family and their lives in California, Colorado and Idaho, incorporating a great deal of history of the American West.

Adventure Without End | By Richard Bangs – A collection of 16 globe-spanning reports from the field (including Patagonia, Idaho and Borneo) by the peripatetic river rat and writer.

Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource | By Marq De Villiers – An examination of the world’s water supply and the global impact of its mismanagement.

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